Endometriosis is a condition where tissue grows outside of the uterus causing a great deal of – at times quite unbearable pain especially during menstruation and for many can result in infertility. (Maybe a reason why it took me so long to get pregnant with my son, Alex and then didn’t happen again after a miscarriage a few years later). Causes are not clear and there is no real cure for endometriosis. Drs will suggest laser surgery, hysterectomy or hormones to control symptoms. Not particularly helpful or what you want to hear – and from my research not particularly successful long-term solutions either.
My journey into the health and wellness field really started when I had a particularly bad flare up of endometriosis in the summer of 2013. I don’t know why but the pain not only intensified but just was there all the time and it just crept up on me that August. All of a sudden I was experiencing only 5 pain free days a month at one stage and with a cycle of every 19 to 20 days this was not fun. The pain was all consuming – in my back and down my legs as well as in my back and just debilitating. I felt so sick and nauseous too. The pain would always seem to be at its worst at night so I’d have at least 2 nights of little or no sleep. After day 3 the pain would ease off but then would come back at mid cycle often as quickly as day 7 to 9 and then the cramps would just build again till the next period.
For the first time in my life I found I was really struggling with work.. I’m not the kind of person to take time off.. at school if I was sick it was usually my mum telling me to stay home and I’d be adamant I was going in – I didn’t want to miss out on anything! And that has been my work ethic all along.. I only don’t go in if I’m throwing my guts up – and even managed it in with (unbeknown to me) a burst appendix. – Which strangely enough was not as painful as the endometriosis pain!
So having to go into work late or not at all just wasn’t easy for me to get my head around but for the first time in my life my body let me down and there didn’t’ seem to be a lot I could do about it. On top of that was the embarrassment – I’m a private person so this wasn’t something that I found easy or even wanted to talk about to bosses or work colleagues. I honestly could see my senior corporate career at an end and wondered if this pain was to be a permanent fixture of my life going forwards… not something I was prepared to accept – especially being the main breadwinner in our family which just added on the pressure and stress. This did, however, give me insight into how quickly people can fall ill – I’d previously been able to muddle through and now I couldn’t – and it opened my eyes to how hard it is to live with chronic pain. Not only letting work down but also having to curtail family and social life because you just function. It really is true that if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.
I wasn’t happy with the suggestions the Dr put forward and even a trip to see a pain management specialist who sent me away with about 5 sets of very strong painkillers to take.
So ,with thoughts about what taking those might do to my liver, I began to look into alternatives.
If you know me then you’ll know that I like to do my research and so I read everything I could lay my hand on. And found some great resources and some hope! Some of the books I found more useful were…
Unfortunately there is no resident expert on endometriosis in Hong Kong so I decided to go all out and try everything I could to get my life back. Luckily I had the income to be able to afford consultations with various health practitioners. I consulted a naturopath, a clinical nutritionist and an acupuncturist and I have to say that I believe it is a combination of all these therapies that I started to get some relief. I’m not going to pretend it was easy. On the dietary side I eliminated wheat, dairy and alcohol. All these cause inflammation and endometriosis is a sign of inflammation in the body. The hardest thing was probably eating out and finding things that I could eat. Even trips to friend’s houses I’d take my own salad whilst they were indulging in all sorts of delights. I’m very disciplined and very determined (my family will tell you that!) but I didn’t think I had much choice. I also took a large number of supplements – bio omegas, chaste berry, DIM, Maca powder (a plant from the Andes in Peru and documented for its properties of balancing female hormones). I changed my exercise regime too. I’d always done a lot of exercise and in everything I read this helped with the pain but for me I was already doing that and it was not helping so I switched to less intense workouts (I used to do circuits) and incorporated in less stressful exercise such as yoga and pilates. I still do my HIT training but I do it for around 10 mins maximum. The harsh exercise was putting added stress on a body already depleted.
I wish I could say that that the new way of eating and my new exercise regime cured me – but it wasn’t as straight forward as that though it definitely helped. My fortnightly acupuncture was invaluable and I noticed the difference in pain if I timed the treatments just at the right time but if I have to say that the homeopathic remedies seemed to be really be key for me. I consult my homeopath every few weeks and we are always tweaking the remedy and monitoring how I’m feeling. I’ve accepted that I’m always going to have some pain but most months I have it under control and can manage. I’ve been able to go into work over the last couple of years and to function and for that I’m truly grateful.
My message is to anyone else suffering out there is not to be fobbed off.. the pain is real and for a long while I felt I was banging my head against the wall with my Dr who just didn’t get it… the trouble with western medicine can be that at times it just wants to put a sticking plaster on the symptoms and I didn’t want to do that – I wanted to find out what was causing it and stop it happening – not take medication that might give me side effects and store problems up for later. So I haven’t found a complete cure but I’ve been for the most part successful. It is a case of trying things and finding what works for you and sticking with it.. it took me a good 9 months to start to really feel better . What worked for me may not for you.
You may find other forms of treatment or therapy that help you . But be open minded and give things a go and don’t give up till you find some relief. And do I stick to being wheat, dairy and alcohol free? Yes, most of the time I do.. Occasionally I will indulge but it is occasionally and for me this is a way of life as I know that is the only way I’m going to keep the inflammation down in my body.
Here are some great resources that helped me – hope they help you too!
Explaining Endometriosis – Lorraine Henderson & Ros Wood– a comprehensive guide to the conditions, treatments managing the condition and sections included for family and friends on giving support.
Endometriosis Your Best chance to cure it – Sandra Cabot MD – Umm, not sure about a complete cure but this is again a comprehensive book. It has a chapter on natural progesterone therapy as to quote Sandra “one of nature’s best kept secrets” (but may not be something everyone wants to try) and holistic treatments and supplements and she shares case studies of successful treatments.
Endo Empowered : http://www.endoempowered.com/ Melissa Turner has her own REACH technique based on 5 pillars: Replenish (your body), Exercise, Affirm, Cleanse, Help (& support). I’ve not tried it personally but have included it here as you may want to investigate her site.